5 Business Lessons from Airline Safety Instructions

While sitting on a crowded plane returning from a recent trip, I was half listening to the flight attendant demonstrate the standard safety instructions we all hear before take-off. I gave the instructions a bit more thought and realized that the same basic rules apply in business. Although many of the safety guidelines apply to the challenges facing many new start-up businesses, the lessons are equally valuable for well-established businesses launching a new service line, product or strategy. Apply these simple instructions to your business and see how well they “fly.”


1. Fasten your seatbelt – we may experience turbulence

The beginnings of a new enterprise require some initial safety preparations – legalities, regulatory issues, accounting impact, employee dislocation studies, and so on – in an effort to “keep us safe in our seats” and avoid unnecessary injuries. Turbulence should be expected in any new initiative or project and the sooner we accept the possibility that the ride ahead may not be smooth, the closer we are to overcoming the disruptions we may encounter.

2. Please note the Emergency Exits – they may be behind you, not in front of you

How often do we look only “ahead” or outside of our organization for solutions to problems without considering the answers that may exist in our business, right now? Situational awareness is a potential life saver when we are in a tough place; look around you and consider many different perspectives to gather data, assess risk and define problems so that they can be dismantled in an easy, systematic approach. Remember to always know where the “exit” out of a contract, employment relationship or deal can be found and have a plan to get there quickly.

3. Please secure your oxygen mask first and then help others

Many entrepreneurs and key employees become consumed with the “business” and lose focus on their health and personal life. It is important to maintain your physical health, emotional perspective and general well-being to perform at the high level expected of an organizational leader. Take care of yourself, so that you can help take care of the employees, clients and partners who are depending on you to fulfill your responsibilities to the business.

4. In the event of an emergency, assume the bracing position

Sometimes the best ideas do not succeed. Plan for contingencies, accept failure and move on as quickly as possible. Many times in business we learn more from mistakes than successes and we should benefit from every opportunity to refine best practices or design new ways to deliver services or products. Successful businesses are not created in a week – they require testing, hard work and usually many set-backs before reaching goals. Learn from failure, retool and succeed on the next try.

5. Your seat bottom can be used as a flotation device/ hug the cushion to your chest

Never forget that there are many phases in the life cycle of most businesses and don’t be afraid to reach for a “life preserver” to keep the enterprise going, especially during the early days of development. Business loans, bartering for services and other creative financial vehicles may be needed to help sustain the enterprise during lean times with limited resources. Be realistic about creating debt for yourself or the company, but under the right circumstances – securing capital for expansion, personnel hiring or equipment can be the needed boost that leads to ultimate success.

Finally, don’t forget…no smoking in the rest room. Wheels up!

About the Author

Catherine Swift Sennett, Esquire is the Partner in Charge of Advisory Services for Jackson Cross Partners, LLC, a commercial real estate company headquartered in King of Prussia, PA. The company has developed a Knowledge Based platform to support corporate portfolio management and strategic transaction execution. Ms. Sennett leads a full-time staff of ten attorneys and real estate professionals as well as thirty attorney contractors who assist the company on large scale abstracting and lease administration projects. Click here to contact Catherine directly.